Once again police officers are warning WhatsApp users to be aware of a scam in which criminals pretend to be a family member with a new number requesting money after breaking their phone.
Last month we saw how BBC broadcaster Jacqui Oakley's mother was almost fooled by the “mum and dad WhatsApp Scam”. Jacqui Tweeted about how close her mum had been to transferring money to fraudsters posing as her daughter after she received the WhatsApp messages seemingly from Jacqui. Jacqui subsequently appeared in the media in a bid to warn users about the scam.
Now Derbyshire Constabulary are issuing a fresh warning as the scam is still being heavily reported.
As Jacqui’s experience confirms, the scammers pretend to be a child of the recipient, with the first message often saying, ‘Hello Mum” or “Hello Dad”.
They might engage in small talk, using information unknowingly given by the victim to make the messages sound realistic, and will then ask for money in the form of a bank transfer or payment of bills.
Key signs that this is a scam may be someone sounding different, making spelling or grammar mistakes that are out of character and creating a sense of urgency for the recipient to carry out actions.
A video on Derbyshire Constabulary’s Facebook page shows what a conversation might look like, and some of the warning signs.
Detective Constable Tammy Barnes, Derbyshire Constabulary’s Vulnerable Fraud Investigation Officer, said:
“Being contacted urgently by a relative is always concerning, and the desire to help in an emergency is what the criminals are relying on.
“These criminals know that by calling the victim as ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ there is a reasonable chance that the recipient is a parent and will help the person, who they think is their child, without further question.
“If you ever get a message from a friend or family member that you think is suspicious, especially when they are asking for money or personal details, always call them and confirm their identity before doing anything else.”
Action Fraud have reported that over £1.5million has been lost by victims through this specific scam between February 3 and June 21 this year.
In some cases, victims have sent multiple amounts of money before realising the recipient isn’t a family member.
Action Fraud’s advice is to stop, challenge and protect when you receive a message that doesn’t seem right:
Stop - taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
Challenge - could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect - if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. You can also forward suspicious text messages that you have not acted upon to 7726 for Action Fraud to review.
Have you or someone you know been fooled or almost fooled by this scam? Have you seen different variations of the scam? Have you got any further recommendations for people of how to combat it? If so, leave a comment on our Facebook page.
Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).